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Boones Mill college student studies at Cambridge
Scholarship allowed Mary Grace Hankins to spend two weeks in England
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Courtesy Photo: While studying in the United Kingdom, Mary Grace Hankins took time the visit London’s Tower Bridge.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Mary Grace Hankins, a senior at Emory and Henry College, recently returned home to Boones Mill after spending two weeks studying abroad.

A recipient of EHC's Emily Williams English Speaking Union Scholarship, Hankins, 21, was able to spend two weeks of her summer in the United Kingdom studying at the University of Cambridge.

Each year, one rising EHC senior is chosen to receive the scholarship based on his or her academic record and an interview with a faculty selection committee.

"When I was awarded the scholarship back in December, I was told to choose a program and to apply," said Hankins.

She chose a program highlighting early stage drug discovery and how the immune system works.

Once her chosen program was approved, Hankins started preparing for her trip, which took place July 5 through 21.

Hankins graduated from Martinsville High School in 2011 and is now pursuing her bachelor's degree in chemistry.

"I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, but I didn't want to become a doctor," said Hankins. "So I chose pharmacy. The program at University of Cambridge tied in well with my field of study."

As a scholarship recipient, her program at Cambridge was fully funded, other than part of her plane ticket and extra spending money.

"I worked a job while I was in school to save for the extra expenditures," she said.

The trip was not Hankins' first time traveling outside the United States.

"I went to Greece during my sophomore year in college," she said. "But it was with a large group of people. The trip to England was my first time out of the country by myself. I think getting on the plane was the hardest part. I was really excited, but extremely nervous."

Hankins was housed in a dorm at the University of Cambridge, where she participated in three lectures a day, as well as classes in the afternoon.

"It was an international summer school so I was able to meet people from at least 15 different countries," said Hankins. "It was a real cultural exchange for me."

While in England, Hankins said she learned a lot about the culture and gained a new sense of independence while doing things on her own.

"The public transportation there is really good, so getting around was fairly easy," she said. "I had a weekend to myself, so I took a day trip into London where I visited the London Bridge, Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. I also got to visit Westminster Abbey."

Hankins said adjusting to British culture wasn't too difficult since they also speak English.

"Their English is a little different from ours, but it is basically the same," she said. "And their food is very similar, only they don't use as much seasoning so I thought it was a little bland."

Hankins praised the academic programs in England and thought her entire experience was "mind-blowing."

"Cambridge has been a pretty major center for scientific discovery in the last 100-150 years," she said. "It was awesome to be in the actual place where so many discoveries were made... to be where DNA was officially discovered back in the 50s. I even got to listen to a lecture by Sir John Gurdon, who won the Nobel Prize in 2012."

Outside of the academics, Hankins said the cultural exchange and the friends she made were the most unforgettable parts of her experience.

"I really miss the friends I made while I was there," she said. "I got pretty close to people in those two weeks, and I still keep in touch with them over Facebook."

Hankins said she is currently in the process of applying to pharmacy schools at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University), ETSU (East Tennessee State University) and UNC (University of North Carolina).

At Emory, she is the student chair of this year's orientation programs for entering freshmen.

"I'm really involved on campus in planning student activities and helping others on campus," said Hankins.

She is the daughter of Matt and Dulcie Hankins of Boones Mill and Leanne and Kevin Barbour of Callands.

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